Physical Fitness and IQ in Young Men Might Impact Risk of ALS, Study Suggests

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

Share this article:

Share article via email
ALS news

New research points to evidence that physical fitness, body mass index (BMI), IQ, and stress resilience in young adults might play a role in the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The study, “Physical and cognitive fitness in young adulthood and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at an early age,” was published in the European Journal of Neurology. PhD student Elisa Longinetti was the lead author.

There is a hypothesis, based on clinical observations, that patients with ALS had a higher level of physical fitness and lower BMI than average. But there isn’t enough literature to support the relationship between cognitive fitness and the risk of ALS.

This study was designed to explore the associations between physical and cognitive fitness levels with the potential risk of ALS.

Researchers evaluated the data on physical fitness, BMI, IQ, and stress resilience from 1,838,376 Swedish men ages 17 to 20 between 1968 and 2010. The researchers used the Swedish Patient Register to find diagnoses of ALS.

During follow-up, 439 incident ALS cases were found with a mean age at diagnosis of 48 years old. Investigators found that young men with above-average fitness levels tended to have a higher risk of ALS before age 45 compared to others; those with BMI levels of 25 or more tended to have a lower risk of ALS regardless of their age compared to those with normal BMI levels.

And, young men with higher IQ levels also had a statistically significantly increased risk of ALS starting at the age of 56, but those with high stress resilience levels had a lower risk of developing ALS until they were 55.

The results of this study pointed to a potential connection between physical fitness, BMI, IQ, and stress resilience in young adults with the development of ALS at an early age.

“Male ALS patients seem to have a particular profile in terms of cognitive and physical fitness. Since our analysis was restricted to males it would be interesting to know if these findings are generalizable to females,” Longinetti said in a press release.